Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

How verifiable is it? _________________


At the close of former President Clinton’s term of office, General John M Shalikashvili, former chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented his findings and recommendations on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). The report stressed that the ratification of the CTBT by the United States Senate was vital to United States security concerns.

The report came too late for action by the former President, and it is now in the hands of new United States President Bush to re-submit or not the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent. The United States was the first to sign the Treaty on 24 September 1996. The Treaty can, according to its own provisions, only enter into force with the ratification of 44 States, including the United States. It is widely accepted that ratification by the United States would be a major source of encouragement for other countries to follow suit.

On 5 February this year, the Department sponsored a briefing by Dr. Trevor Findlay, Chairman of the Independent Commission on the Verifiability of the CTBT. He is also Executive Director of the Verification Research, Training and Information Technology Centre (VERTIC) in London.

The Independent Commission, established in 2000, was comprised of a renowned group of scientists and experts in the field. Its mandate was to assess the CTBT’s verifiability, concentrating on the contribution it can make through its system of international on-site inspections, confidence-building measures, of adding an international dimension to national technical means and the establishment and nurturing of communities of scientists with similar skills, training and background.

The report, according to the Commission’s chairman, stressed that 100% verifiability of the CTBT cannot be achieved. But the means to verifying the compliance to a considerably high degree exists. The International Monitoring System, located in some 90 countries, is being established. Seismological, infrasound, hydroacoustic and radionuclide stations are involved in the system. It is expected to be able to detect with a very high level of confidence a non-evasively conducted explosion of at least one kiloton with a real possibility of detection significantly below this yield. This should serve as a considerably effective deterrent, the report contends.

Preparations have already begun for the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT to be held in New York from 25 to 27 September 2000.

The report of the Independent Commission is available at